Video communication is an inexpensive yet powerful tool that can help establish and maintain client relationships. The vastly improved quality, ease of use and low cost has propelled this technology to the forefront of many small businesses, including law firms.
Video calls and communication includes scheduled conference calls, but also routine calls – can now take place on the telephone.
Social scientists have been telling us for years that face-to-face communication where both sound and visual queues are used is the most beneficial form of communication – better than phone calls and far better than email or written correspondence. Video calls allow us to gauge the other person’s response to our message and spoken word. We can see facial expressions, gestures, head movements, body positioning, and shifting. We can see whether other participants are participating or distracted. We look for visual cues such as head nods and eye contact to see if our message is getting through, being rejected or being ignored.
Video technology is not complicated. Over 80 percent of American adults now own a smartphone equipped with a video camera. Many already use the video camera to communicate with friends and family, so why not their lawyer? Most laptop computers have built-in cameras, and HD-quality video cameras for office use cost between $50 and $100 and are easy to install.
There are also some easy to use products on the market for video calls and conferencing:
- Microsoft Office 365 for Business Professionals includes Skype for Business that can call clients and others from Outlook with just one click;
- Zoom.us is my favorite. There is a free edition that allows the user to meet for an unlimited number of minutes with one other person (such as a lawyer/client). If the user wants to meet with a group, then there is a 40 minutes time limit and a limit of 100 users. But, there are also other inexpensive versions of the product – the business version is only $20 per month and the user can place unlimited video calls with up to 50 participants.
- Go2Meeting and Cisco Spark are also popular in this market segment.
Introduce each client to your video communication efforts during the initial consultation. Let them know the benefits and that they can easily communicate with you using their smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. Consider adding a brief provision to your representation agreement, highlighting the understanding with each client to try to use this technology rather than the telephone or in-person meetings. Make a note in each client’s contact information which tools they have to communicate via video.
It may seem a bit strange at first not to pick up the telephone, but soon your clients will be thanking you, and you’ll be thankful you read this tip!
Thanks to the author of this article, Reid Trautz. Reid is the Director of the Practice and Professionalism Center of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and a blogger on the issues of business process improvement, technology, legal ethics, and effective practice management. Reid is co-author of the ABA’s “The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice” and a past ABA TECHSHOW chair.